The Wild will have to figure out a way to effectively eat up the league-leading 29 minutes, 19 seconds per game that defenseman Ryan Suter logs tonight against the Montreal Canadiens and potentially in the foreseeable future.
One day after Mike Yeo said he didn’t think the Wild’s No. 1 defenseman had the mumps, the Wild coach ruled out Suter for tonight’s game and said the team is concerned he may have the virus that has infiltrated (strangely only) the Wild’s blue-line corps this season and a few other teams like the St. Louis Blues, Anaheim Ducks and the latest, the New York Rangers.
Suter had played 153 consecutive games with the Wild since signing in 2012.
Suter went for bloodwork yesterday and the team is awaiting the results, Yeo said. Yeo said Suter doesn’t have swollen glands but a few other symptoms unique to the mumps that makes the Wild concerned.
"We're hoping it's just illness," Yeo said. "There's a couple symptoms that he has that would make us concerned that it could be [the mumps]."
Defensemen Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Keith Ballard and Christian Folin have all had the mumps this season, although sometimes it takes a few tests to actually test positive for some reason. For instance, Folin says he was never officially diagnosed with the mumps, but he had the same exact symptoms Ballard had. Ballard tested positive for the mumps, but it took a few tests to actually get the positive result.
Suter, who leads Wild defensemen with 13 points and leads the team with a plus-10, logged 32:30 in Saturday’s shootout loss to the St. Louis Blues, turned the puck over for the game-tying goal late in the third period and definitely didn’t look himself after the game. He also said the night before in Dallas (a game he finished minus-1 that he was actually minus-3 in until the game-tying and winning goals with 1:52 left in the third and overtime, respectively) that he never felt comfortable or was able to get into the game.
That actually was the pattern for Scandella and Brodin. Both had some tough moments in games at Montreal and New Jersey before being forced out of the Wild lineup with the illness. Scandella only missed two games, but Brodin missed seven games and 17 days.
Ballard missed eight games and Folin five.
Another pattern was feverish/exhaustion/body aches, then feeling a little better, then getting sick again with the swollen glands. The Wild was confident Suter was going to be able to play tonight because yesterday he told the Wild he was feeling much better. But obviously something changed in the afternoon because the Wild recalled Folin for insurance.
Folin will play tonight and in today’s skate was paired on the right side of Brodin, who normally plays the right with Suter but will move to his natural left side tonight. Assistant coach Rick Wilson said he didn’t know exactly how he’d throw out the D tonight, but they’ll start with Scandella-Jared Spurgeon, Brodin-Folin, Ballard-Nate Prosser.
Yeo said, "We’ve really been missing at least one of our top four for a good chunk of the year and these guys are very valuable to the defensive part of our game. These guys eat up a lot of minutes, play special teams, but they're also a huge part of our execiution, a huge part of getting the puck to our forwards and creating offense."
He said the Wild will be missing a guy who plays half the game tonight, so a it's a big void that will need to be filled by Scandella, Spurgeon and Brodin.
So far, no forwards or goalies have been struck with the mumps and, if Suter ends up having it, only Prosser, Spurgeon and Matt Dumba have avoided it on the back end. Once Scandella and Brodin were diagnosed in early November, all Wild players, staff members and broadcasters were offered mumps boosters.
Childhood vaccines do wear off over time.
As for Folin, he's glad to be back after playing eight games earlier this season. He felt his game was coming together at Iowa, where he scored two goals and two assists and was plus-1 in eight games.
The Wild wanted him to get his game back to being aggressive and assertive. Yeo felt the looming roster decision before he was sent down was in the back of his mind and he was playing too safe.
Folin said the recall was a nice surprise and that he had fun playing in Iowa just because he got to be on the ice more, playing three games in three nights at times and 30 minutes a night.
He said it was nice picking up some points: "It’s not like I’m a defenseman that will get a lot of points, but I like to shoot the puck and it was fun when the puck went in finally and get my first professional goal out of the way."
On the difference between the NHL and AHL, Folin said, "I don’t think it’s more time and space at all. It’s really fast. It’s not as controlled, so there’s guys coming from everywhere. It was like going back to college that way. But it was fun. I just liked being on the ice more."
He said the Wild's message when he was reassigned was, "Just get back down and work on the defense of my game. I wasn’t feeling too good about my game after coming back from mumps there. It was tough coming back. I think I lost a few steps. I was out five games, and that's tough."
I talked to Jason Pominville this morning about his struggles. He has one goal in the past 16 games, coming at Montreal on Nov. 8.
"It's tough. It's really tough. It hasn't been in easy," Pominville said. "I like the way I'm playing. That's what's been really weird. I feel good. We've been making plays, just haven't been able to put one in. I mean, if you look at my shots, my attempts, I think I've got to find a way to get my percentage a little higher. I'd be out of this pretty quick. I like everything else. I just got to try to find a way to put one in. Obviously getting our power play going would help me in that sense as well."
I asked him about fanning on so many shots: "If there's a wobbly puck, I'll try to shoot it no matter what, whether it's a good pass, a flat pass, or whatever, I just try to get it there as quick as I can. I think it's the best way to beat a goalie. If you asked Heater (Dany Heatley), he said he scored probably 200 goals on fanned one-timers (laughs). Usually if goalies have time to square up, they're tough to beat. Sometimes it gets there, sometimes it doesn't. But I like to get it off as quick as I can."
On Yeo meeting with line in Dallas and the line playing two good games since: "I don't think we were that far off, but to sit down with him and to see things that he sees and that he wants us to do a little bit differently really helped us. That was in Dallas, and the goal we scored in Dallas (Parise to Pominville to Granlund third goal) was typical of what he was talking about. He kind of felt that me and Zach were pushing the pace a little too much and getting a little too far ahead of the play and in Dallas we were able to come up as a unit of three forwards with our defensemen joining and we created a 2-on-1 and I was able to hit Granny. It was nice to be able to see it."
Lastly, Justin Falk was reassigned after the skate.